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The Lift

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“FUCK!”

She side-eyes the man stood next to her.

Not another wierdo, please!

New York seems to be full of them, all wanting to talk to her. Maybe it’s because Americans are so much more willing to make eye contact, to start conversations.

She stares at the phone she has cradled in both hands.

Just ignore him.

7.47am.

Oh fuck fuckity fuck crap!

She’s going to be late.  Again.

“FUUUCCKKK!” growls the man, now jabbing his fingers aggressively at the buttons on the elevator wall.

And she’s going to be even later if this wanker has the lift stopping at every floor.

“We’re stuck.” He announces.

Oh no; he’s talking to her. “Huh?”

Keep looking at the phone.

The elevator. It’s stuck.”

“What?” She finally looks up. Woah. This man is, well he’s-

“The elevator is stuck.” He answers again very slowly and very loudly as if she’s stupid or deaf or both.

“Are you sure? I mean-“

“Yes. We’re not moving and the lights on the panel have gone out.”

“Have you tried pressing…” She begins to reach an arm around his wide frame, but he swipes it away.

RUDE !

“Yes, of course I have.” He runs his hand over his face and through his shoulder-length, dark hair, pushing it away from his eyes. “I think we’re stuck between floors.”

“Wh – what floor?”

“Not sure. Between 15 and 16 I think.”

“Are you  really  sure? I didn’t think lifts actually broke in real life. Only in films and books, right?”

“Lifts?”

“Oh.” She smiles. “Sorry elevators.” He blinks. Then blinks again. ”Isn’t there like a call or help button or something?”

“I don’t think it’ll work” He turns back and his finger hesitates above the rows of darkened buttons until he locates the bell button. To his obvious surprise, the sound of a bell rings out from the wall.

She looks back at her phone. 7.50 am. 21% battery. Her phone will be dead before she’s halfway across town.

Come on pick up!

“Come on pick up.”   He hisses. She examines his back. A taut cotton black t-shirt stretches over broad shoulders and thick arms.

The ringing halts and a piercing static noise whirrs through the air along with a bored male voice:  Hello

The man leans into the panel, he has to hunch down as he’s tall, very tall.

“Hi, we’re stuck in the elevator. We can’t get it moving. All the lights have gone out on the panel.”

Have you tried pressing the open door button, Sir?

“Yes,” he replies wearily. “But anyway I think we stopped between floors.”

Ok. And are you at….

The voice reads out the address of the apartment block and the elevator number.

“Yes that’s right. Can you get it started again?”

No not from here Sir. We’ll have to send out an engineer. I’ll get one sent out right away. Just hang on one moment please.

The static noise halts as the line is broken.

“Shit.” She mutters. “How long do you think it will be? I’m gonna be late for work!” 7.53am 19% battery.

“I have no idea. I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before.”

The static noise returns and they both jump.

Sir, I’ve spoken to the engineer. He’s just finishing off another job and will then be on his way. He should be there in around 30 mins but I’ll give you an update when he’s left he’s current job.

“30 minutes!” she wails. The man turns his head to look at her.

“Is there no way for us to get out? No ladder?” he pleads.

No Sir. And we strongly advise you stay where you are. You are perfectly safe.

The static cuts again before either of them can argue.

“Are you claustrophobic?” he asks her. A slight line appearing between the two dark brows on his forehead as he turns round fully to face her.

She shakes her head. “No just in a whole heap of shit if I’m late for work again.”

“I’m sure they’ll understand.”

“I doubt it. ‘I got stuck in a lift’: it’s the grown up equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework’.”

He snorts.

She swallows and then takes a deep breath in. “I’d better call them”

“Have you even got signal?” he asks glancing at the slick looking phone he holds in his own hand.

She peers more closely at the bars on the screen:  missing .

“No!” she wails again. Then slides the phone angrily into her back pocket.

“You shouldn’t put that there. Someone will steal it.”

She makes a show of sweeping her gaze across the elevator. 6ft by 6ft. Two walls ping ponging their reflections, one shiny defunct set of elevator doors and one wall covered in a dark and dirty looking fuzz (which she knows smells of stale beer).

“Are  you  going to steal my phone?”

He looks affronted and hurries his eyes away from her, stares at the fuzz wall instead.

She takes the opportunity to examine him a bit more. He must be at least 6ft3, with pale skin, strong jaw and a large nose. He isn’t cute, cute; more, well, handsome, she supposes.

“Why are you even here?” she can’t help but ask.

“What?” he turns his eyes back to her, puzzled.

“Why are you in this lift at 7 something on a Saturday morning?”

And not in bed like any sane person.

“I’m visiting my drug dealer.”

Her eyes widen.

Great!   I’m stuck in a lift with an addict.

“I’m joking.” He rolls his eyes.

She exhales. Then mutters, somewhat crossly: “That’s not funny. Some of us live in this shithole.”

“I know. So do I!” Her eyes widen again.

Really? Really!?!

She’s not seen him before and she’s sure she would have noticed.

She studies the expensive gadget wrapped around his wrist, the expensive phone in his grasp and the expensive trainers donning his feet. And she can’t help herself again.

“Why? Why do you live  here ?”

“What?” he asks, once again eyeing her with a hint of alarm.

“You obviously have money.” she gestures to the trainers and the watch. “Why would you live in this shithole?”

“I needed somewhere cheap when I first moved to the city and I can’t be bothered to move.”

“How long have you been here?”

“15 years.”

They are both silent. The elevator is eerily quiet.

“I’m gonna sit.” She says. It seems silly to keep standing.

He nods and watches as she unhooks rucksack straps from her shoulders, drops her bag to the floor and then shimmies down.

“Woah!” she cries as her butt hits the floor. She lifts one cheek and retrieves the phone from her pocket, stuffing it into the front of her pack.

“And that’s the other reason you shouldn’t keep your phone in your back pocket.” He chides.

Smart arse.

She glares at him.

He shuffles on his feet, examines his hands. Then follows suit, lowering his large frame down and leaning against the opposite wall. His legs are long and so he bends his knees upwards so as not to invade her space.

“Have you ever been stuck in a, erm, ‘lift’ before?” he asks her. And she giggles which, she notices, causes that look of puzzlement to pass over his face briefly.

“No. This is the first time I’ve lived anywhere with more than two floors!”

“And what happens in these movies when people get stuck in elevators?”

“You never saw one?”

He shakes his head.

She smiles and leans forward. “Oh. It depends on the genre. If it’s a horror, well, once the suspense has been built up, it gets pretty gruesome. But if it’s a romance, then they fall in love and maybe things in the lift get a little….” She falters as she comprehends what her big stupid mouth is saying. He stares at her, mouth gaping. “steamy.” she finishes. She’s never been able to stop her words from tumbling out. “I mean it doesn’t seem very likely does it?”

Please stop talking!

“Likely?”

She gulps. “Sex in a lift. Aren’t there security cameras in lifts?”

They both look up towards the ceiling. A large domed light fills most of the panel above them.

“It’s probably behind that.” He says gesturing his chin towards the dome.

“Yes probably.” They look at each other.

“But I think it is a thing. A kink thing for some people.”

“Sex in a lift? Oh. Like dogging?”

“Dogging?” That intrigued look again.

“Dogging! You know when people let other people watch them while they have sex in their car.”

Shut up! Stop talking!

She feels a slight heat rise to her cheeks . His eyes seem to have widened, his eyebrows now higher up his brow than they were before.

“Oh right.” He pauses. “But I don’t think it is an exhibitionist thing like, err, dogging. I think it’s a fetish for having sex in strange places. Like the mile high club. They probably cover the camera in the elevator before jamming all the buttons to make it stop.”

“You seem to know a lot about - Wait! Did you jam the buttons?!”

“What?” His eyebrows now jump firmly up to the very top of his brow in horror then slam back down into a deep frown. “No. No I did not!”

She squirms under his glare.

“I think we should stop talking about sex.” He huffs.

“Why?” she asks, tipping her head to one side.

“Are you always this curious?” He snorts back.

“Yes!” Then she shakes her head, trying to shake away a memory. “Curiosity killed the cat,” she chimes, imitating a well-to-do voice.

That puzzled look.

“It’s what some lady told me once before getting me tested for a whole bunch of things like autism and ADHD. She was just getting back at me for taking apart her radio.”

“Why did you take apart her radio?”

“I wanted to see how it worked.”

He nods. “And are you…?” he rolls his palm over.

“Autistic? No.”  Lonely. I was lonely.  “And would it matter if I was?”

“No of course not. I was just-“

“Curious!” She interrupts frowning. “Anyway you’re deflecting. You didn’t answer the question. Why shouldn’t we talk about sex?”

“Because.”

“Because?”

“Because talking about sex gets people thinking about sex,” he mutters towards his feet.

Oh OOOHHH!

And he’s right because now she  is  thinking about sex. She’s thinking about sex with him. Sex with him in this lift.

Stop it! Stop stop stop.

She takes a peek at him. He’s still examining his shoes. Is he thinking about…about sex with her?

Stop it. Not everyone is a pervy, horny mess. He probably gets laid every night.

She’s barely been snogged or groped in the past two years.

Change the subject. Quickly.

She runs through her brain desperately looking for a topic of conversation. And failing.

“Well, what can we talk about?” she asks in desperation. “Not religion. Not politics.”

“No not those.” He glances back up at her and takes pity. “What’s the job? The one you’re gonna be late for?”

“I’m an engineer.”

“Can you fix-“. His thumb gestures towards the panel.

“No, I’m not that type of engineer. And anyway this is America, I’d probably get sued by you or the building people, or whoever, if I tried.”

He ignores the dig. “Well, what kind of engineer goes to work on a Saturday morning?”

“One who works for a film company that’s only over here filming for a few months. Then we’re moving on to South America.” Her eyes glimmer slightly at the thought.

“Aren’t you…aren’t you quite young for that job?”

“I’m 25!” she bristles. He looks like he’s not sure if he believes her. “I’m older than I look – it’s my good skin.” She grins. “Plus I’m still training, it’s like an apprenticeship – hence why I’m staying in this shithole, saving my money.”

“It’s not a shithole.”

“We’re stuck in the lift, elevator, whatever!”

“Ok, it is kinda a shithole.” He smirks. “And you’re from the UK, right?”

“What gave it away?”

“Your accent.”

“Obviously.”

“Don’t you need a green card to work here?”

“I have no idea. The film company sorts out all the work permits and the travel and stuff.”

He looks at his watch. “That’s 20 minutes. Should I press the call button again?” She shrugs and he doesn’t move.

“What do you do?” she asks.

“I’m in IT.”

“IT. What programming?” He doesn’t look like a programmer although he does have the pale pallor of someone who spends a lot of time stuck in front of a screen.

“No, I run my own IT security company.”

“Really – what’s it called?”

“First Order”

Shit!

She’s heard of that – it’s big and getting bigger by the day. She’s sure she’s read that somewhere.

“You really need to move out of this shithole!”

“It’s on my to-do list but there’s always something better to do.”

“Like?”

He flounders for a moment. “The gym.”

The gym. Right; figures with arms and calves like those.

“Is that where you were going?” She eyes the trainers, the shorts, the earphones she can see dangling from his pocket. He nods. “The gym before 8am on a Saturday morning. That’s keen.”

But with a body like that he must be in there all the time.

“I don’t sleep well and it helps with stress.”

It’s quiet again. She notes the grey smudges under each eye and tries not to picture him lifting weights in the gym, sweat running down his…

“Sport.” She blurts out. His eyes flick to hers. “Are you in to sports?”

“No not really. You?”

“Yeah, I like watching football when I get the chance.”

“Football? I didn’t know they played it in the UK.”

“SOCCER!” she rolls her eyes. “You know everyone else in the world calls it football? You bloody Americans ruining our English.”

He ignores the dig, again. “Do you play ‘football’?”

“No. I box” His eyes spring wide.

“You  box? !”

She likes shocking this guy but actually it’s the same old reaction she always gets. It’s not what people expect. She hasn’t got a broken nose or a chipped tooth. She isn’t well built or muscular or even particularly curvy. But she’s quick and strong and agile.

“I don’t actually fight, but I like the training. It keeps me fit and if you’re feeling cross or  stressed ,” she arches an eye brow at him “there’s nothing better than punching something you can’t hurt.”

He swallows and she can see the Adam’s apple bob in his neck.

“Where in the UK are you from?”

“Where am I from?” She sighs and leans her head against the wall. She closes her eyes. “It’s complicated.”

“Complicated.” He repeats softly. She opens her eyes and he is looking right at her. He holds her gaze. He really does have very pretty eyes. A sort of caramel, brown that reminds her of chocolate.

She hesitates but actually he is a good listener. And it’s been such a long time since anyone listened to her, longer than the sex even.

“I was in foster care. You have that here, right?”

He nods but his eyes don’t leave her face.

“I got moved around a lot.”

“Why did you hesitate?” he asks, quietly. His voice is deep, soulful.

“Huh?”

“You hesitated before you told me that. Why?”

“Because.”

“Because?”

“Because it makes people uncomfortable when I tell them. And then they get flustered or worse they pity me.” But there’s no pity in his eyes. There’s acceptance. Understanding. And maybe that’s why she continues. “So I never tell them the rest.” She looks straight into those deep, brown eyes. “My parents were addicts. They tried to sell me. To their drug dealer.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, it’s history-“

“No. I mean about the drug dealer joke earlier.”

“Thanks.” She whispers.

“I don’t do drugs.”

“Not even steroids?” she smiles weakly.

“No.” he answers firmly, earnestly.

“No, me neither.”

She takes a deep breath in. It feels warm in here now.

He’s still watching her as she takes another deep breath in, fighting the tears she can feel pooling in the corners of her eyes.

“Where are you from? I don’t recognise your accent.” She asks a little too brightly.

Don’t cry. Do not cry in front of a stranger in a lift.

You won’t have heard of it. It’s out West in the middle of nowhere.”

“That’s where your family’s from?”

“Yes. That’s where I grew up. But I…I don’t see them anymore. I left home a long time ago.”

It’s silent. She raises her gaze to meet his. And she waits.

He runs his hand over his face and through his hair like he did before.  His tell , she thinks.

“My parents were, well still are, very religious. And things went wrong when I hit my early teens.”

“They didn’t like you seeing girls?”

He shakes his head.

“Boys?!” she gasps.

“Girls.” He says sternly, fixing her with a hard stare. “But it wasn’t that. I started asking questions about God and the rules and why stuff was and wasn’t ok. They didn’t like it. They called me a ‘troubled child’.”

“How did you leave?”

“They sent me to my uncle. He’s a leader and ran this place for kids like me. He decided what I needed was a good old beating with a stick. I hit him back. And then I left. I haven’t spoken to any of them for twenty years.”

“How old were you?”

“15.” She’s not shocked. Growing up in the care system, she’s heard a lot worse. But there’s something sad about his eyes now so she can’t help but scuttle over to sit next to him.

“Gosh.” She says, nudging his shoulder with hers. “That got deep.”

“Gosh.” He teases, a smile twitching at the corners of his lips.

She nudges him again and gives him a mock stern look.

“A conversation would never go that way in England. Probably because the only thing English people ever talk about is the weather.”

“Yeah. I heard that. But how does that even work? One person says ‘hey it’s sunny’ and the other says ‘yes it is’. End of conversation.”

“Well, the weather changes a lot. And I’m not very good at it. I mean conversations.” I didn’t exactly get a lot of practice growing up.  “But I can show you?” She twists to face him straight on. “Go on.”

“What? OK.” He turns his head to meet her eyes. “Hey it’s sunny.”

“Yes it is. Isn’t it lovely? So nice to finally get a bit of sunshine, to get outside and get some vitamin D. Although it’s pretty hot and my lawn is already starting to die. And it was so humid last night I couldn’t sleep.”

She points at him.

“Erm. Yes it was quite warm last night.”

“But not as warm as it was this time last year. Remember there was already a hose ban by this time last year.”

“Hose ban?”

“Don’t ask! But I hear it might rain tomorrow - it’s already raining out west and they’ve had some flash flooding.”

“Wow.” He nods. “But what is the point of that? A whole conversation about nothing.

“Like I said I’m not very good at it but I think it’s like a code.”

“Like for spying.”

“No more subtle than that. It lets you tell people how you’re feeling without out having to say it.” He looks confused. “So if I enthuse about how great the sun is or how I’m so pleased it’s finally raining, then I’m telling you I’m good, I’m happy. But if I moan about the weather, I’m probably miserable.”

“I think you did both”

She face palms. “Told you: no good. Just another reason to leave England.”

“What were the others?”

“It’s cold and wet and grey.” And I felt so alone. “I want to see so much more of the world, you know.”

“Yep.”

“Says the man who’s lived in the same apartment for 15 years.”

“That’s partly because I’m not actually home that often. I travel a lot.”

“Oh.” She examines the plastic watch on her wrist, the one she picked up from the airport in a hurry when she realised she’d forgotten hers.

“That’s 40 minutes now. Should I press the call button?”

This time he shrugs.

A loud rumbling noise erupts from her stomach.

“Jesus, what the hell was that?”

“My stomach. I haven’t eaten breakfast, ok?”

“It sounds like you’ve got a bear in there.”

“I was gonna pick up a bagel on the way to work. I lurve bagels.” She rubs her stomach. “That is something you Americans do well; breakfast. Pancakes and muffins and maple syrup and bacon and blueberries.”

He shakes his head at her, then stops.

“Wait,” he says and reaches into his pocket, pulling out what looks like an energy bar. “You can have this.”

He holds it out to her.

“Oh no. I couldn’t,” she protests as her stomach growls again.

“Oh yes you can.” And he drops it into her lap. She picks it up and starts to tear open the packet.

“Stop!” he yelps snatching it off her, and holding it out of her reach. “Are you allergic to anything? Nuts? Chocolate? Gluten? I don’t want you suing me.”

She grins, reaches up and snatches it back. “No I’m not.”

“I thought that was the trend among girls now – food allergies, intolerances?”

“I’ll eat anything.” She snaps the bar down the middle and hands him one half. He takes it without argument and they both sit chewing.

“Hmmm chocolate.” She says closing her eyes. “I wouldn’t have taken you for a chocolate- with-his- gym-energy-bar type of guy.”

She turns to look at him again and he- Come on! You can’t be serioushas a big smudge of chocolate above his top lip.

“You have some-“ she gestures towards his face “chocolate on your lip.” He runs his thumb along that fat bottom lip of his. The one she thinks she’d quite like to suck.

“No, It’s not there, it’s-“ she twists towards him rising up onto her knees, resting one hand on his bare knee for stability as he turns his torso so she can reach with the other hand to wipe away the smudge with her fingers. His skin is soft with the faintest hint of stubble below the surface and he smells of coffee and mint and what is that-

“Is it off?” He’s not looking at her eyes. He’s looking at her lips. And his hand, his hand is resting on top of the one that grips his knee.

She leans forward a little closer. “Maybe. Let me just see…”

She presses her lips against his. Briefly. Then pulls back and whispers:

“All gone.”

He laughs, his whole face lighting up and his other hand is sliding around her hip and tugging her towards him. So she kisses him again. This time harder. This time parting her lips. This time giving that plump bottom lip a firm suck.

And oh fuckity fuck fuck fuck.  She wishes she’d dressed better today. But work is hands on and dirty so she’s in her battered jeans, an old t-shirt and her dirty jacket. Her hair is scraped back into three buns to stop it falling into her eyes or into machinery while she works. It’s not her must seductive look.

The hand on her back has made its way up to the back of her head and is pressing her lips firmly against his. His tongue exploring her mouth. He lifts her hand from his knee, rests it on that hard chest of his and pulls her against him.

She pushes away and his eyes flit open.

“Hadn’t we better…” Her voice surprises her. It’s hoarse, breathless. She points towards the ceiling and they both look up.

“I doubt it-“ But she’s already shimmied her jackets down her shoulders and she thrusts it at him.

He sighs but lumbers to his feet, giving her a perfect view of the now obvious bulge in his pants. He reaches up to the domed light and tucks her jacket round it. The light dims in the lift, and tinges blue.

“Happy?” he asks, indicating his handy work.

“Happy.” She replies and yanks him back down beside her. “Hello again.” She smiles before resting both her palms flat on that magnificent chest and kissing him. His hands are on her waist, gently tugging her t-shirt from her waist band and then sliding beneath exploring the flesh of her waist. She groans and he hauls her closer, running his hand up her sides and towards her-

“Oh.” He falters when he finds an expanse of elasticated fabric binding her front. “well this is-“

“Practical.” She mutters. “A practical sports bra. I wasn’t actually planning for-“

He plants his lips on hers and her words are lost. He slides his hands back under her shirt and up her back searching for the clasp.

She pushes him away. “It doesn’t undo.”

“Oh.” He looks crestfallen. “How do I….”

“Let me.” She rocks back onto her heels and slides her right arm through the sleeve of her t-shirt and the arm of her bra, before stretching the tight fabric over her shoulder. She threads her arm back through her T-shirt and repeats the process with her left arm. Finally she pulls the hot pink bra over her head, causing her chestnut hair to fall loose onto her shoulders.

“Ta da” she chimes, dangling the bra from her forefinger before tossing it towards her bag.

“Very….” He examines the outline of her breasts, now clear through her shirt, and she feels her nipples harden. “Impressive.”

“Why thank you kind Sir.” She whimpers in her cutest English accent taking a mock bow. Which he clearly likes because a groan escapes his throat and he grabs her waist.

“Now, where were we?” he asks, hauling her towards him.

“Right about…” she lifts one leg over his lap so she’s straddling him. “here.” She continues as she comes to land on something large and hard. She rolls her hips forward and backwards, teasing him. He groans again and grinds against her.

She leans in and kisses him hard. He squeezes her waist before sliding his hands underneath her shirt and tracing his fingertips from the base of her spine, along her back to the nape of her neck, and then he traces back down to the waistband of her jeans. His fingers tease along the band to her hips and then slide up her sides and she shivers as light fingertips brush fleetingly against the sides of her breasts. He traces back down again to her waist and travels his fingers along the waistband once more until they meet at the point where her jeans buckle. His fingers hover there before stroking softly up the tenderness of her stomach, winding around her belly button, up to the base of her ribs tripping over each rib in turn, then up, up, up towards-

The elevator jerks suddenly.

Their teeth clang and they’re thrown together, one of her boobs crushed painfully against him.

“Ow” she squeals rubbing her breast. They both look up to see the panel lights blink on, off, on, off, on. The elevator begins to whirr and then, unmistakably, descends steadily.

Seriously!   She thinks. Just when things were beginning to get interesting!

She scrambles to her feet grabbing her bag and bra. He follows, reaching up to retrieve her jacket and passing it to her.

She fumbles for her phone. 9.07am 6% battery.

Fuck fuckity fuck crap.

The lifts comes to a halt at the ground floor with a bump and they watch in silence as the silver doors draw back causing bright sunshine to flood into their metal box. They both blink and blink again.

She steps through the doors. He is behind her, his light touch just discernible on the small of her back.

She turns and offers her hand.

“I’m Rey.” She smiles. “R-E-Y. Apartment 18B. And I will be home later, about 6.30.”

He takes her hand in his. “Ben. I’ll see you later Rey.”